Is Coronavirus Killing Crime?

An NYPD officer takes a selfie in an almost empty Times Square in New York City, March 31, 2020. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)
Probably not, according to the available data.

NRPLUS MEMBER ARTICLE W ith big-city streets emptied out, many people are assuming that the coronavirus has had at least one positive consequence: low crime. But what little data there are reveal that some crimes, including key indicators, have actually increased. Another oddity is that while the amount of crime varies from city to city, it does not necessarily correlate with a municipality’s rate of infection.

Anecdotal reports suggest that domestic-violence cases are up because families are required to remain in their homes, where frustrations and abuse are mounting. This may be true, but so far there is little hard evidence to support the claim.

Barry Latzer is an emeritus professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. His most recent book is The Rise and Fall of Violent Crime in America. His history of violent crime pre-1940, The Roots of Violent Crime in America: From the Gilded Age through the Great Depression, will be published in 2021.

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